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    Flu Season Kicks Off: What to Expect This Year

    What you need to know about flu vaccines this year.

    October is here, and so is influenza season. The push is on to get as many people vaccinated as possible. This year, the CDC’s rallying cry for flu vaccinations is “Everyone, 6 months and up!”

    Pharmacists are front and center in this goal. About 25% of all flu shots are administered by pharmacists, according to John Norton, Director of Public Relations for the NCPA. This is despite the 29% of independent pharmacies that do not administer immunizations, he noted.

    Related article: Did Nasal Flu Vaccine Withdrawal Lower Vaccination Rates?

    “Pharmacists account for a significant amount of the flu vaccinations for adults,” said Andrew Kroger, MD, MPH, of the Communication and Education Branch, Immunization Services Division, at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

    “The demographics that are more challenging to reach are the 20- to 40-year-olds. They think they are healthy. But when there is an outbreak, then they react,” said Alex Novielli, PharmD, Manager for Immunization Services for Walgreens. Older people are more likely to come in for flu vaccine early in the season, he explained, while young adults wait until later, when they hear there is a flu outbreak.

    Andrew Kroger QuoteAlthough the CDC now recommends flu shots for everyone, except those under 6 months of age, most states have a minimum age for pharmacists to administer vaccinations, usually around age 6 or 7. 

     “Over the last several years, community awareness of pharmacists providing immunizations has strengthened, not only with patients but other health-care providers leading to more and more people receiving their flu shot and other vaccines from their local pharmacist,” said Heather Free, PharmD, AAHIVP, a pharmacist in Washington, DC, and a Spokesperson for the APhA.

    This puts pharmacists in a good position to help educate the public about flu vaccination. “Many times, people come to the pharmacy with their own views around vaccines, most importantly the flu shot,” said Free. “It is up to the pharmacy team, technicians included, to help educate patients around the benefits that vaccines provide for health conditions.” Pharmacists and pharmacy staff need to be up-to-date on their knowledge of flu vaccine, the contraindications, and people’s fears around vaccines, she added. “The pharmacy team needs to be prepared to address vaccine concerns to bust myths around vaccines.” The biggest myth is that getting a flu shot can cause the flu, she noted.

    Up next: Vaccines for the 2017-2018 flu season

    Valerie DeBenedette
    Valerie DeBenedette is Managing Editor of Drug Topics.

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